Saturday, January 28, 2006


The entire piece will appear in the NYT Sunday edition. From Raw

Koppel: Profitability not partisanship 'shapes what you see on TV news'

01/28/2006 @ 4:16 pm

Filed by RAW STORY

The agenda of television news organizations is based on profits, as opposed to politics, and the networks are targeting the wrong demographic groups, according to an op-ed written by former ABC Nightline anchor Ted Koppel for Sunday's New York Times, RAW STORY has learned.

Coverage of foreign events, for the most part, has suffered because networks have reduced or eliminated their foreign bureaus, which can "no longer be deemed cost-effective" since "no audience is perceived to be clamoring" for it. Washington news coverage has also waned.

Instead of 18-to-34-year-old viewers, Koppel believes that the networks should focus on the audience that "may actually have an appetite for serious news:" 40-to-60-year-old baby-boomers.

In Koppel's viewpoint, even conservative Fox News operates more for the sake of "simple capitalism" than political ideology. "Calculated subjectivity has, indeed, displaced the old-fashioned goal of conveying the news dispassionately," according to Koppel.

Excerpts from "And now, a word from our demographic" by Ted Koppel:

Where to begin? Confession of the obvious seems like a reasonable starting point: I have become well known and well-off traveling the world on ABC's dime, charged only with ensuring that our viewers be well informed about important issues. For the better part of those 42 years, this arrangement worked to our mutual benefit and satisfaction. At the same time, I cannot help but see that the industry in which I have spent my entire adult life is in decline and in distress.

...Fox has succeeded financially because it tapped into a deep, rich vein of unfulfilled yearning among conservative American television viewers, but it created programming to satisfy the market, not the other way around. CNN, meanwhile, finds itself largely outmaneuvered, unwilling to accept the label of liberal alternative, experimenting instead with a form of journalism that stresses empathy over detachment.

If the network news divisions cannot be convinced that their future depends on attracting all demographic groups, then perhaps, at least, they can be persuaded to aim for the largest single demographic with the most disposable income -- one that may actually have an appetite for serious news. That would seem like a no-brainer. It's regrettable, perhaps, that only money and the inclination to spend it will ultimately determine the face of television news, but, as a distinguished colleague of mine used to say: "That's the way it is."


Friday, January 27, 2006



The Bush double-talking, message-manipulating machine and hypocritical WH rejected a proposal for surveillance in 2002.


The Bush administration rejected a 2002 Senate proposal that would have made it easier for FBI agents to obtain surveillance warrants in terrorism cases, concluding that the system was working well and that it would likely be unconstitutional to lower the legal standard.



Booted CNN anchor Aaron Brown of the former News Night expresses his views on journalism today.


Journalists have fallen short in presenting important news in ways that allow viewers to see how it matters in their lives. But viewers must take up the battle as well, he said. "It's not enough to say you want serious news. You have to watch it. It isn't enough to say you want serious debate. You have to engage in it."

My sentiments exactly. LS


A POWERFUL ANALYSIS OF THE MEDIA TODAY and why it continually not only upholds and reinforces Republican ideology but most disturbingly, it simultaneously trashes and bashes Democrats on every level. Worse, the media is completely unaware that it has become completely embedded in the GOP belief system.

A brilliant piece by Peter Daou of Salon. LS


There's a critical distinction to be made here: individual reporters may lean left, isolated news stories may be slanted against the administration. What I'm describing is the wholesale peddling by the "neutral" press of deep-seated narratives, memes, and soundbites: simple, targeted talking points that paint a picture of reality for the American public that favors the right and tarnishes the left.

You’ve heard the narratives: Bush is likable, Bush is a regular guy, Bush is firm, Bush is a religious man, Bush relishes a fight, Democrats are muddled, Democrats have no message, national security is Bush’s strength, terror attacks and terror threats help Bush (even though he presided over the worst attack ever on American soil), Democrats are weak on security, Democrats need to learn how to talk about values, Republicans favor a “strict interpretation” of the Constitution, and on and on.



Who is bribing whom now?



I am sure you are as stunned as I am over this finding. But you won't be appalled when you read the piece below the photography purging in which Reflections Photography earned $140K from the Bush/Cheney 2004 campaign.




...................................................MOVING ON TO ALITO..................................................................


I saved the best piece, sent by Ken, for the last.

Breaking: Kerry Will Lead Filibuster
By Bob Fertik
Created 2006-01-26 13:06


I have confirmed reports that Kerry wants to filibuster Alito, and he is talking to his colleagues to round up the 41 votes he needs.

Only two Democrats (Ben Nelson and Tim Johnson) support Alito. Only two others (Mary Landrieu and Ken Salazar) say they oppose a filibuster, but are expected to vote against Alito.

So right now, without the support of any Republicans, we still have 41 possible votes for a filibuster. There are roughly 6 moderate Republicans who should also be targeted (Lincoln Chafee, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Bob Smith, Olympia Snowe, George Voinovich). And we should work as hard as we can to persuade Landrieu and Salazar that a vote against Alito is meaningless if they don't support a filibuster.

More details soon, but keep calling the Alito 8!

Here is part of the speech Kerry gave yesterday. Kerry is absolutely right that Bush's nomination of Alito was all about capitulating to the radical right after they shot down Harriet Miers. I love the part about Ann Coulter!!!

„President Bush had the opportunity to nominate someone who would unite the country in a time of extreme divisiveness. He chose not to do this, and that is his right. But that he didn‚t and how this nomination happened tells us a great deal about this presidency and how politics is driving this process.

„Under fire from his conservative base for nominating Harriet Miers˜a woman whose judicial philosophy they mercilessly attacked˜President Bush broke to extreme right-wing demands. This was a coup. Miers was removed and Alito was installed. The President did not consult with members of the Senate, as is required by the Constitution. He gave no thought to what the American people really wanted˜or needed.

„Instead, he made this nomination about his political base. He made it about an ideological shift in the Court. He made it about unassailable conservative credentials and an unimpeachable conservative judicial philosophy.

„If you need proof, just look at the response of Ann Coulter. Ms. Coulter is as inflammatory and as conservative as anyone in the country. She makes her living through character assassination. She denounced the nomination of John Roberts. She attacked the nomination of Harriet Miers, calling her completely unqualified and lamenting that President Bush had Œthrown away a Supreme Court seat.‚ Yet she celebrated the nomination of Samuel Alito, stating that Bush gave Democrats a right-hook‚ with this stunningly qualified‚ nominee. This from a woman who said that Republicans need to nominate a person who wake[s] up every morning . . . chortling about how much his latest opinion will tick off the left.‚

Kerry also highlights the issue of dictatorship and the "unitary theory":

Judge Alito's hostility to individual rights is not limited to civil rights. He consistently excuses government intrusions into personal privacy - regardless of how egregious or excessive they are. In Doe v. Groody, for example, he dissented from an opinion written by then-Judge Michael Chertoff because he believed that the strip search of a 10-year old was 'reasonable.' He also thought the government should not be held accountable for shooting an un-armed boy trying to escape with a stolen purse, nor for forcibly evicting farmers from their land in a civil bankruptcy proceeding without any show of resistance.

This pattern of deference to government power is reinforced by a speech he gave as a sitting judge to the Federalist Society just five years ago.

In his speech, Judge Alito 'preach[ed] the gospel' of the Reagan Administration's Justice Department: the theory of a unitary executive. Though in the hearings, Judge Alito attempted to downplay the significance of this theory by saying it did not address the scope of the power of the executive branch but rather addressed the question of who controls the executive branch, don't be fooled. The unitary executive theory has everything to do with the scope of executive power.

In fact, even Stephen Calabresi, one of the fathers of the theory, has stated that '[t]he practical consequence of this theory is dramatic: it renders unconstitutional independent agencies and counsels.' This means that Congress would lose the power to protect public safety by creating agencies like the Consumer Product Safety Commission - which ensures the safety of products on the marketplace - and the Securities and Exchange Commission - which protects Americans from corporations like Enron - and the President would gain it.

Carried to its logical end, the theory goes much further than invalidating independent agencies. The Bush Administration has used it to justify both its illegal domestic spying program and its ability to torture detainees. The Administration seems to view this theory as a blank check for executive overreaching.

Judge Alito's endorsement of the unitary executive theory is not my only cause for concern. In 1986, while working in the Justice Department, Judge Alito endorsed the idea that presidential 'signing statements' could be used to influence judicial interpretation of legislation. His premise was that the President's understanding of legislation was as important as Congress' in determining legislative intent - startling when you consider that Congress is the legislative branch.

President Bush has taken the practice of issuing signing statements to a new level. Most recently, he used a signing statement to reserve the right to ignore the ban on torture that the Congress overwhelmingly passed. He also used signing statement to attempt to apply the law restricting habeas corpus review of enemy combatants retroactively - despite our understanding in Congress that it would not affect cases pending before the Supreme Court at the time of passage.

The implications of President Bush's signing statements are astounding: his Administration is reserving the right to ignore those laws it does not like. Only one thing can hold the President accountable: the Supreme Court. I am not convinced that will happen if Judge Alito is confirmed.

Reigning in excessive government power matters more today than ever before as we work to find the balance between protecting our rights and our safety. As Justice O'Connor said, the war on terror is not a blank slate for government action. We can - and must - fight it in a manner consistent with the Constitution.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006




Ken found this piece on Daily Kos on lies that begin with "nobody could have anticipated...."

"Anticipa-ay-tion....It's Making Me Lie"




Excerpt: (From American Progress)

ADMINISTRATION CONTRADICTS ITSELF: The administration argues that, in addition to the President's unchecked power over anything he deems related to security, the power to conduct warrantless domestic surveillance was granted by Congress in 2001 through the Authorization for the Use of Military Force against al Qaeda. (Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) disagrees. Asked if the 9/11 resolution authorized the warrantless domestic surveillance program, Brownback replied, "It didn’t in my vote.") The administration's claims on this issue are not even internally consistent. On the one hand, the administration argues Congress gave them this power. But Attorney General Alberto Gonzales claims that the administration didn't go to Congress for the authority because Congress would have rejected them. At a press conference on Dec. 19, Gonzales said, "We have had discussions with Congress in the past -- certain members of Congress -- as to whether or not FISA could be amended to allow us to adequately deal with this kind of threat, and we were advised that that would be difficult, if not impossible."


Yays: 10 Republicans Nays: 8 Democrats

Looks like we're stuck folks unless our party finds the spunk to filibuster. Dems had better find a collective spine because life here will get even worse, if that is possible. Senator Leahy writes in a piece on that Alito is a threat to our fundamental rights.




Speaking of wretched judges and a corrupt administration, it seems that Scalia missed John Roberts' swearing in because he out of town, ostensibly to give a seminar while also playing tennis, fly fishing and socializing at a posh resort, compliments of The Federalist Society.


"It's unfortunate of course that what kept him from the swearing-in was an activity that is itself of dubious ethical propriety," said Stephen Gillers, a New York University law professor, who is a recognized scholar on legal ethics



A brilliant piece by Reid found on on DOUBLE SPEAK


Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.

In that book, Orwell spoke of "doublespeak" - naming something just the opposite, in order to cover how unpleasant it is in reality.

As we saw in the video, the President has been giving us doublespeak for years. He utters platitudes about helping Americans, when he's really helping his special interest friends.

When he wanted to let energy companies release more pollution into the air, he called it the "Clear Skies Initiative."

When he wanted to give tax breaks to his special interest friends - even though it meant adding more than $50 billion to the deficit, he called it the "Deficit Reduction Act."

When he wanted to give tax breaks to his special interest friends - even though it meant adding more than $50 billion to the deficit, he called it the "Deficit Reduction Act."

His "Leave No Child Behind Act" is leaving children behind every day because he refuses to fund it. And his new Medicare drug benefit hardly resembles a "benefit" for seniors.

Tuesday night, it is time for President Bush to end to this pattern of deceit. In his State of the Union, it is not enough for him to declare that the "state of our union is strong."

America can do better, and only the pessimistic would suggest anything less.



TEXAS PROSECUTOR RONNIE EARLE WIDENS HIS INVESTIGATION OF DELAY BY SEEKING INFORMATION ON REPUBLICAN COMMITTEE DONATIONS TO THE U.S. FAMILY NETWORK (for un-American values. Put a nail in DeLay's coffin, Ronnie, please. The dude should have been history long ago. LS).


The Washington Post reported that donations to U.S. Family Network came from clients of Abramoff, who has pleaded guilty to federal charges in a congressional corruption investigation.




The Marianas've heard of this hell hole on earth in which slave labor practices including forced abortions are both actively and tacitly supported by the likes of Abramoff, DeLay and other corporate and political poor excuses for human beings. UM - I thought abortion was an evil liberal practice. So why is the Republican majority endorsing such practices in a territory? Outsource abortion, like they outsource torture? Where the Bush GOP is concerned, one must always follow the money to discover the motivating forces that drive it.





Really!? With the GOP, most of whom are corrupted by Abramoff et al, in the majority? It's a stretch however if a conservative publication is concerned,
there is a ray of sunshine and hope for justice.



Be on the lookout folks. Bush, Cheney, Rove and Gonzales are on a campaign type blitz again to recast and reposture the language of the "surveillance on Americans" issue into one on "terrorist surveillance." The four of them are running around the country squawking and screeching like chickens with their heads chopped off. Don't believe any the lies you hear spewn from their traps.

It won't work, Dudes, it just won't work. We know Karl and Dick are wiretapping all of us, especially all GOP political opponents. LS


Published on Friday, January 20, 2006 by the Columbus Free Press (Ohio)
I Will Not Support Hillary Clinton for President
by Molly Ivins

I'd like to make it clear to the people who run the Democratic Party that I will not support Hillary Clinton for president.

Enough. Enough triangulation, calculation and equivocation. Enough clever straddling, enough not offending anyone This is not a Dick Morris election. Sen. Clinton is apparently incapable of taking a clear stand on the war in Iraq, and that alone is enough to disqualify her. Her failure to speak out on Terri Schiavo, not to mention that gross pandering on flag-burning, are just contemptible little dodges.

The recent death of Gene McCarthy reminded me of a lesson I spent a long, long time unlearning, so now I have to re-learn it. It's about political courage and heroes, and when a country is desperate for leadership. There are times when regular politics will not do, and this is one of those times. There are times a country is so tired of bull that only the truth can provide relief.

If no one in conventional-wisdom politics has the courage to speak up and say what needs to be said, then you go out and find some obscure junior senator from Minnesota with the guts to do it. In 1968, Gene McCarthy was the little boy who said out loud, "Look, the emperor isn't wearing any clothes." Bobby Kennedy -- rough, tough Bobby Kennedy -- didn't do it. Just this quiet man trained by Benedictines who liked to quote poetry.

What kind of courage does it take, for mercy's sake? The majority of the American people (55 percent) think the war in Iraq is a mistake and that we should get out. The majority (65 percent) of the American people want single-payer health care and are willing to pay more taxes to get it. The majority (86 percent) of the American people favor raising the minimum wage. The majority of the American people (60 percent) favor repealing Bush's tax cuts, or at least those that go only to the rich. The majority (66 percent) wants to reduce the deficit not by cutting domestic spending, but by reducing Pentagon spending or raising taxes.

The majority (77 percent) thinks we should do "whatever it takes" to protect the environment. The majority (87 percent) thinks big oil companies are gouging consumers and would support a windfall profits tax. That is the center, you fools. WHO ARE YOU AFRAID OF?

I listen to people like Rahm Emanuel superciliously explaining elementary politics to us clueless naifs outside the Beltway ("First, you have to win elections"). Can't you even read the damn polls?

Here's a prize example by someone named Barry Casselman, who writes, "There is an invisible civil war in the Democratic Party, and it is between those who are attempting to satisfy the defeatist and pacifist left base of the party and those who are attempting to prepare the party for successful elections in 2006 and 2008."

This supposedly pits Howard Dean, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, emboldened by "a string of bad new from the Middle East ... into calling for premature retreat from Iraq," versus those pragmatic folk like Steny Hoyer, Rahm Emmanuel, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and Joe Lieberman.

Oh come on, people -- get a grip on the concept of leadership. Look at this war -- from the lies that led us into it, to the lies they continue to dump on us daily.

You sit there in Washington so frightened of the big, bad Republican machine you have no idea what people are thinking. I'm telling you right now, Tom DeLay is going to lose in his district. If Democrats in Washington haven't got enough sense to OWN the issue of political reform, I give up on them entirely.

Do it all, go long, go for public campaign financing for Congress. I'm serious as a stroke about this -- that is the only reform that will work, and you know it, as well as everyone else who's ever studied this. Do all the goo-goo stuff everybody has made fun of all these years: embrace redistricting reform, electoral reform, House rules changes, the whole package. Put up, or shut up. Own this issue, or let Jack Abramoff politics continue to run your town.

Bush, Cheney and Co. will continue to play the patriotic bully card just as long as you let them. I've said it before: War brings out the patriotic bullies. In World War I, they went around kicking dachshunds on the grounds that dachshunds were "German dogs." They did not, however, go around kicking German shepherds. The MINUTE someone impugns your patriotism for opposing this war, turn on them like a snarling dog and explain what loving your country really means. That, or you could just piss on them elegantly, as Rep. John Murtha did. Or eviscerate them with wit (look up Mark Twain on the war in the Philippines). Or point out the latest in the endless "string of bad news."

Do not sit there cowering and pretending the only way to win is as Republican-lite. If the Washington-based party can't get up and fight, we'll find someone who can.
Molly Ivins is the former editor of the liberal monthly The Texas Observer. She is the bestselling author of several books including Who Let the Dogs In?
© 2006 Columbus Free Press

Monday, January 23, 2006


II will be extremely busy with opposition research for the next several months and I therefore thank my friend Ken profusely for keeping me up on current political events. You should be grateful too, for Ken is sending information we most certainly will not find in the predictable and-ho-hum....pandering, lame, bottom line fixated...sell and know where...THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA! The what? Who????? LS

January 19, 2006

Growing Democratic Issue Advantage
by Ruy Teixeira


Last week, I noted how an intense anti-incumbent mood seems to be brewing, unlike anything we've seen since 1994. This week, I draw your attention to some very interesting data released by the Pew Research Center, which suggest that the Democrats are gaining an issue advantage of unusual magnitude that might feed that anti-incumbent mood.

In the Pew survey, they first asked respondents what they thought the most important national problem was, followed by a query about which party could best handle that problem. The result was a 41-27 advantage for the Democrats on handling the most important national problem. That 14-point gap is the largest measured by either Pew or Gallup since this question was first asked in 1987. By way of comparison, the GOP had an 11 point advantage on this measure in March, 2002 and a 3 point advantage in July, 1994.

These data can be broken down by the type of national problem cited by respondents. Democrats had strong advantages in every area but one (security/terrorism): the economy (+21); social/domestic (+22); Iraq (+19); and foreign policy (+30). This compares to last January, when Republicans were actually favored overall and on social/domestic issues (by a point) and Democrats only led by 5 points on Iraq and 17 points on foreign policy. Even on security/terrorism, while the GOP still leads by 18 points today, that is down from an overwhelming 39 point margin at the beginning of last year.

More evidence that we are headed for a very interesting election that could see some big changes.


Time Magazine finds 5 photos of Abramoff with Bush.


The President's memory may soon be unhappily refreshed. TIME has seen five photographs of Abramoff and the President that suggest a level of contact between them that Bush's aides have downplayed. While TIME's source refused to provide the pictures for publication, they are likely to see the light of day eventually because celebrity tabloids are on the prowl for them. And that has been a fear of the Bush team's for the past several months: that a picture of the President with the admitted felon could become the iconic image of direct presidential involvement in a burgeoning corruption scandal like the shots of President Bill Clinton at White House coffees for campaign contributors in the mid-1990s.


UM...Maybe we shouldn't be too hopeful too soon......


This sounds like a Rove/Cheney imperative.

UH OH! I guess that means over 50% of us are doomed for jail with no access to the legal system. How to contain 50 % of the population will be the next problem the pathetically incompetent Bush hired hacks will have to face.


The Truth Project gained national attention when NBC News reported last month that it was described as a "credible threat" in a database of suspicious activity compiled by the Pentagon's Talon program. The listing cited the group's gathering a year ago at a Quaker meeting house in Lake Worth, Fla., to talk about ways to counter military recruitment at high schools.



More information revealed on Diebold and vote manipulations.


Four times over the past year Sancho told computer specialists to break in to his voting system. And on all four occasions they did, changing results with what the specialists described as relatively unsophisticated hacking techniques. To Sancho, the results showed the vulnerability of voting equipment manufactured by Ohio-based Diebold Election Systems, which is used by Leon County and many other jurisdictions around the country.

Johns Hopkins University computer sciences professor Avi Rubin, who is leading a group that has received a $7.5 million grant from the National Academy of Sciences to research election technology, said the vulnerabilities of electronic systems -- including new touch-screen voting machines -- point to the need for a paper trail in any election. "The more I see, I say we need voting to rely on paper," he said. About 26 states require paper ballots, according to Verified Voting, an advocacy group.



The Other Big Brother
The Pentagon has its own domestic spying program. Even its leaders say the outfit may have gone too far.

By Michael Isikoff

Jan. 30, 2006 issue - The demonstration seemed harmless enough. Late on a June afternoon in 2004, a motley group of about 10 peace activists showed up outside the Houston headquarters of Halliburton, the giant military contractor once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney. They were there to protest the corporation's supposed "war profiteering." The demonstrators wore papier-mache masks and handed out free peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches to Halliburton employees as they left work. The idea, according to organizer Scott Parkin, was to call attention to allegations that the company was overcharging on a food contract for troops in Iraq. "It was tongue-in-street political theater," Parkin says.

But that's not how the Pentagon saw it. To U.S. Army analysts at the top-secret Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), the peanut-butter protest was regarded as a potential threat to national security. Created three years ago by the Defense Department, CIFA's role is "force protection"˜tracking threats and terrorist plots against military installations and personnel inside the United States. In May 2003, Paul Wolfowitz, then deputy Defense secretary, authorized a fact-gathering operation code-named TALON˜short for Threat and Local Observation Notice˜that would collect "raw information" about "suspicious incidents." The data would be fed to CIFA to help the Pentagon's "terrorism threat warning process," according to an internal Pentagon memo.

A Defense document shows that Army analysts wrote a report on the Halliburton protest and stored it in CIFA's database. It's not clear why the Pentagon considered the protest worthy of attention˜although organizer Parkin had previously been arrested while demonstrating at ExxonMobil headquarters (the charges were dropped). But there are now questions about whether CIFA exceeded its authority and conducted unauthorized spying on innocent people and organizations. A Pentagon memo obtained by NEWSWEEK shows that the deputy Defense secretary now acknowledges that some TALON reports may have contained information on U.S. citizens and groups that never should have been retained. The number of reports with names of U.S. persons could be in the thousands, says a senior Pentagon official who asked not be named because of the sensitivity of the subject.

CIFA's activities are the latest in a series of disclosures about secret government programs that spy on Americans in the name of national security. In December, the ACLU obtained documents showing the FBI had investigated several activist groups, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Greenpeace, supposedly in an effort to discover possible ecoterror connections. At the same time, the White House has spent weeks in damage-control mode, defending the controversial program that allowed the National Security Agency to monitor the telephone conversations of U.S. persons suspected of terror links, without obtaining warrants.

Last Thursday, Cheney called the program "vital" to the country's defense against Al Qaeda. "Either we are serious about fighting this war on terror or not," he said in a speech to the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank. But as the new information about CIFA shows, the scope of the U.S. government's spying on Americans may be far more extensive than the public realizes.

It isn't clear how many groups and individuals were snagged by CIFA's dragnet. Details about the program, including its size and budget, are classified. In December, NBC News obtained a 400-page compilation of reports that detailed a portion of TALON's surveillance efforts. It showed the unit had collected information on nearly four dozen antiwar meetings or protests, including one at a Quaker meetinghouse in Lake Worth, Fla., and a Students Against War demonstration at a military recruiting fair at the University of California, Santa Cruz. A Pentagon spokesman declined to say why a private company like Halliburton would be deserving of CIFA's protection. But in the past, Defense Department officials have said that the "force protection" mission includes military contractors since soldiers and Defense employees work closely with them and therefore could be in danger.

CIFA researchers apparently cast a wide net and had a number of surveillance methods˜both secretive and mundane˜at their disposal. An internal CIFA PowerPoint slide presentation recently obtained by William Arkin, a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst who writes widely about military affairs, gives some idea how the group operated. The presentation, which Arkin provided to NEWSWEEK, shows that CIFA analysts had access to law-enforcement reports and sensitive military and U.S. intelligence documents. (The group's motto appears at the bottom of each PowerPoint slide: "Counterintelligence 'to the Edge'.") But the organization also gleaned data from "open source Internet monitoring." In other words, they surfed the Web.

That may have been how the Pentagon came to be so interested in a small gathering outside Halliburton. On June 23, 2004, a few days before the Halliburton protest, an ad for the event appeared on, a Web site for lefty Texas activists. "Stop the war profiteers," read the posting. "Bring out the kids, relatives, Dick Cheney, and your favorite corporate pigs at the trough as we will provide food for free."

Four months later, on Oct. 25, the TALON team reported another possible threat to national security. The source: a Miami antiwar Web page. "Website advertises protest planned at local military recruitment facility," the internal report warns. The database entry refers to plans by a south Florida group called the Broward Anti-War Coalition to protest outside a strip-mall recruiting office in Lauderhill, Fla. The TALON entry lists the upcoming protest as a "credible" threat. As it turned out, the entire event consisted of 15 to 20 activists waving a giant BUSH LIED sign. No one was arrested. "It's very interesting that the U.S. military sees a domestic peace group as a threat," says Paul Lefrak, a librarian who organized the protest.

Arkin says a close reading of internal CIFA documents suggests the agency may be expanding its Internet monitoring, and wants to be as surreptitious as possible. CIFA has contracted to buy "identity masking" software that would allow the agency to create phony Web identities and let them appear to be located in foreign countries, according to a copy of the contract with Computer Sciences Corp. (The firm declined to comment.)

Pentagon officials have broadly defended CIFA as a legitimate response to the domestic terror threat. But at the same time, they acknowledge that an internal Pentagon review has found that CIFA's database contained some information that may have violated regulations. The department is not allowed to retain information about U.S. citizens for more than 90 days˜unless they are "reasonably believed" to have some link to terrorism, criminal wrongdoing or foreign intelligence. There was information that was "improperly stored," says a Pentagon spokesman who was authorized to talk about the program (but not to give his name). "It was an oversight." In a memo last week, obtained by NEWSWEEK, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England ordered CIFA to purge such information from its files˜and directed that all Defense Department intelligence personnel receive "refresher training" on department policies.

That's not likely to stop the questions. Last week Democrats on the Senate intelligence committee pushed for an inquiry into CIFA's activities and who it's watching. "This is a significant Pandora's box [Pentagon officials] don't want opened," says Arkin. "What we're looking at is hints of what they're doing." As far as the Pentagon is concerned, that means we've already seen too much.

© 2006 Newsweek, Inc.

© 2006


Thursday, January 19, 2006


The photo is posted on Air America's Randi Rhodes

The photo was found on BBC's 11/30/00 on line edition when Gore, the rightful winner of the 2000 election, was fighting for the Presidency. Abramoff is seen behind Bush. He was on the Bush transition team, acording to Randi Rhodes. But I thought Bush didn't know him?

The White House is caught in another lie.


Also found on the Randi Rhodes web site is a piece that lists some of the staunchest conservatives who say Bush went too far in wiretapping. I guess all conservatives aren't crazy.



I am sure the MSM has been screaming about this this all evening, especially the extremist crazies at FOX and FOX II formerly known as CNN. I found this piece earlier on the Huffington Post. If you find it there, you can read all of the comments posted by readers. Some are pretty ironic, claiming Rove set this up to take the bad publicity heat off of Bush. Other comments from the uninformed, terrified and nut case consersvatives are infuriating. It's hard not to go after them but they aren't worth the time. They wouldn't get it anyway. LS





First, one of the best and worst moments in NPR history today can be heard at


It's an interview with Rep. Drier, gangleader of the House Rules committee. The great quote, which unfortunately goes quite unchallenged, is that "Republicans are the party of reform," or something like that. He then went on to describe how when the Dems were in power they blocked GOP attempts at reform - I guess they got distracted in their decades long quest.

The prosecutors who are chatting daily with Jack Abramoff and going through his copious records do not seem to be turning such a blind eye. The piece below will keep you cheerful. -K

Republicans gone wild
"Ethics reform" gestures and suddenly hazy memories can't hide the truth: Abramoff is an integral part of the GOP machine that revved up with the '94 "revolution."
By Sidney Blumenthal


Or read below.

Jan. 19, 2006 | Hardly anyone in the Republican Party, in Congress or at the White House, seems to recall ever having met Jack Abramoff. Collective amnesia has suddenly descended upon the capital. The super-lobbyist, whose plea bargain with prosecutors requires the extensive naming of names of members of Congress, staffers, ex-staffers, lobbyists, friends, colleagues and his own personal assistants, is spending his days racking his memory for details of their relationships that may become the basis for bills of indictment.

Abramoff, who pleaded guilty to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials, has left a trail of hard evidence in addition to his sworn confessions. At the end of every business day his former assistant wrote a summary of all his contacts and their conversations, e-mailed it to him and carefully saved it; these documents mapping the days and ways of Jack Abramoff are now in the hands of the prosecutors. (Abramoff's former assistant, Susan Ralston, moved seamlessly from his employ to the White House to become Karl Rove's assistant, where she regularly vetted supplicants to Rove through Grover Norquist, Abramoff's longtime political associate and business partner.)

Abramoff's appearance at the federal courthouse in Washington on Jan. 3 attired in black fedora and black trench coat, like an old-style "Mustache Pete" Mafioso, was bizarre but brilliant self-casting. He was not only his own producer but also his own dresser. In fact, Abramoff loved to recite lines from "The Godfather." One of his favorite bits was Michael Corleone's reply to a politician seeking a cut of his illegal businesses: "Senator, you can have my answer now if you like. My offer is this: nothing."

Abramoff's theatricality is intertwined with his politics. The graduate of Beverly Hills High School is the son of the president of the franchises division of the Diners Club and close to Ronald Reagan's kitchen cabinet of California millionaires. The father financed young Jack's takeover of the College Republicans. After depleting the treasury of Citizens for America, a conservative group founded by drugstore mogul Lewis Lehrman, Abramoff produced a violence-packed, B-grade Cold War movie, "Red Scorpion." With the capture of Congress by the Republicans in 1994, he hustled to Washington for the barbecue.

For more than a decade, Abramoff ran wild. From the offices of two major law firms, Preston Gates & Ellis and Greenberg Traurig, he traded in politicians and clients with abandon. He used false charities and phony think tanks, doled out all-expenses-paid trips, and opened his own Capitol Hill steakhouse called Signatures, where he picked up congressmen's tabs, to become wealthy and influential. He moved effortlessly from being a "friend of Newt," former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, to being a "friend of Tom," former Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. His associates from his College Republican days, Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed, were his musketeers. Reed, former president of the Rev. Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition, became Abramoff's instrument for buying and manipulating leaders of the religious right to grease his elaborate schemes to bilk Indian tribes that had hired him to help them win approval of their casinos. These were just a few of the Abramoff ploys now being untangled by prosecutors.

In his brazenness, extravagance and heedlessness, Abramoff was one of a kind. Almost all lobbyists earning the kind of money he raked in follow the Washington rule of melting into the scenery. But Abramoff is not simply unique; he is also symptomatic. Abramoff's crimes are not illustrations of Washington generically gone haywire. He was not an accident waiting to happen. Nor was he just the latest in a dime-a-dozen scandals. Nor does he represent the vice of both parties. Above all, what he is not is a lobbyist who "bought Washington."

Abramoff has been an integral part of the Republican political machine that has flourished since the 1994 takeover. He has created vast slush funds at the disposal of DeLay (for example, the U.S. Family Network, financed by Russian oil tycoons), worked hand in glove with DeLay's political operatives, and supported the Republican congressional leadership with funds and favors. Abramoff's lobbying and politics are inextricable, one and the same, allowing him to simultaneously serve as a valuable member of the Republican machine and be out for himself. He was not the most significant player; nor was his tens of millions more money than bigger figures made. (Haley Barbour, former chairman of the Republican National Committee and former senior partner of a major Washington law firm, and currently governor of Mississippi, comes to mind.) But Abramoff, more than those with more influence or wealth, has the distinction of being the culmination of the recent history of the Republican Congress.

The Abramoff affair is the greatest congressional scandal in American history since the Crédit Mobilier. In 1873, a congressional investigation revealed that the holding company of the Union Pacific Railroad had dispensed stock to 30-some members of Congress; two were censured, none indicted. Undoubtedly, the punishments arising from the Abramoff affair will be more extensive than those from the Crédit Mobilier.

The latest Republican talking point on Abramoff is: I can't recall. DeLay had previously called him a "close personal friend." But an article last month in the Washington Post strangely reported: "The two met at a DeLay fundraiser on Capitol Hill in 1995, according to a former senior DeLay aide. The aide recalled that Edwin A. Buckham, then DeLay's chief of staff, told his boss: 'We really need to work with Abramoff; he is going to be an important lobbyist and fundraiser.' DeLay, a Christian conservative, did not quite know what to make of Abramoff, who wore a beard and a yarmulke. They forged political ties, but the two men never became personally close, according to associates of both men." The anti-Semitic undercurrent of DeLay's revisionism in his belated effort to distance himself is a piquant touch.

On Tuesday, in his first press conference of the new year, at his Capitol Hill office, Speaker Dennis Hastert described Abramoff as completely unfamiliar: "Well, you know, a year ago most people around Congress couldn't tell you who Jack Abramoff was and didn't know who his associates were or what connections there are." Meanwhile, that same day, at the briefing conducted by the White House, press secretary Scott McClellan gave murky explanations of Abramoff's dealings at the Bush White House. Abramoff had been one of Bush's top fundraisers (designated a "Pioneer" for raising more than $100,000 for the reelection campaign), been a member of the transition team for the Department of the Interior, and billed two tribal chiefs $25,000 for a White House lunch and meeting with President Bush. McClellan conceded Abramoff had been invited to a couple of Chanukah parties. At his Jan. 5 press briefing, when asked about Abramoff's participation in staff meetings, McClellan had said, "I'm making sure that I have a thorough report back to you on that. And I'll get that to you, hopefully very soon." Asked again by a reporter, "Who was in the staff meetings?" McClellan replied, "I don't get into discussing staff-level meetings." Thus Abramoff's history, and that of the Republicans, are being distorted, airbrushed or stonewalled.

In 1994, the law firm of Preston Gates & Ellis sent out a press release hailing its new partner, Jack Abramoff, who "developed and maintains strong ties to Speaker Newt Gingrich." National Journal reported: "The GOP victories in 1994 transformed [Abramoff] into a valuable asset as law firms recruited activists with connections to the new Gingrich team."

Gingrich, representing a congressional district of suburban white flight from Atlanta, touted himself as a cosmic thinker and Napoleonic military strategist. On a large easel, in one of his lectures, he described himself as "Teacher of the Rules of Civilization." Born Newt McPherson, Gingrich was the stepson of an abusive Army officer. He married one of his high school teachers and later handed her divorce papers in her hospital room while she was recovering from cancer surgery. He left teaching at West Georgia College to enter politics. A secret 1960s wannabe, he identified the enemy as "the Great Society countercultural model" and the goal as a Conservative Opportunity Society (the name of a group he founded).

The House Republican whip, Dick Cheney, quietly sponsored Gingrich's rise. Gingrich's method was to accuse congressional Democrats of scandal and manipulate the press into covering it. "I think one of the great problems we have in the Republican Party is that we don't encourage you to be nasty," he said. And he boasted, "We are engaged in reshaping the whole nation through the news media."

After Gingrich whipped up a commotion against Democratic House Speaker Jim Wright, forcing his resignation over a union's bulk buying of copies of his memoir, Gingrich's staff was caught smearing the new speaker, the gentlemanly Tom Foley, as a closest gay, which he was not. Then Gingrich fostered a furor over the House members' bank, a kind of credit union from which they had always drawn loans against their paychecks. It was, political scientist Nelson Polsby wrote in his book "How Congress Evolves," "a comic-opera fiasco that the news media, skillfully abetted by a group of enthusiastic Republican members, pumped up into a Wagnerian Götterdämmerung." Several of Gingrich's Republicans were caught up in this pseudo-scandal and quit Congress, but he was willing to step over their bodies.

After the Republican sweep in 1994, Gingrich held a mad celebration featuring people dressed as the cartoon Power Rangers and Rush Limbaugh. One new Republican member, Sonny Bono, who had fallen from grace as a celebrity, warned Gingrich to guard against hubris.

The failed professor, now speaker, sent his aides and followers for training to U.S. Army training and doctrine centers at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and Fort Monroe, Va., and called himself CEO. He suffered from mood swings of extreme highs and lows, bouncing from grandiose schemes to uncontrollable sobbing. He instructed his aides, "You guys have to tell reporters if they're going to cover the Republicans now, they need a romantic view of history."

Almost at once, he took a $4.5 million book advance from Rupert Murdoch's publishing house, HarperCollins, and just as quickly in the resulting controversy was forced to give it back. For Murdoch, the ridiculously exorbitant advance was chump change, considering his stake in telecommunications legislation.

DeLay, a former exterminator from Sugar Land, Texas, who referred to the Environmental Protection Agency "Gestapo," was the new House Republican whip. What became the K Street Project, melding Republicans and lobbyists, was launched immediately, in January 1995. Initially, DeLay called it Project Relief. He gathered 350 industry lobbyists to work closely with his staff to write legislation to halt regulation. "They have the expertise," DeLay explained about the lobbyists who were recruited to draft bills he proposed. Even before the Republicans had won control in 1994, DeLay met for lunch with 30 or 40 corporate lobbyists every Tuesday in the boardroom of the Independent Insurance Agents of America. These lobbyists financed his race for Republican whip, and even before the brand-new Congress met to vote on its leadership, DeLay had wrapped up his position. Among the Republican leaders, he was the only one with his own independent power base. And Project Relief made its power felt at once. Within a month after the new Republican Congress was sworn in, it voted for a 100-day moratorium on all federal regulation of industry.

DeLay compiled a book listing every industry political action committee, more than 400, marked either "friendly" or "unfriendly," depending on their contributions. "See, you're in the book," he said to one lobbyist as he showed him his PAC listing. DeLay kept the book on a coffee table in his office. On the wall hung a bullwhip. He was the enforcer of Gingrich's rule: "If you want to play in our revolution, you have to live by our rules." In 1995, DeLay met privately with more than 400 of the Fortune 500 companies, explaining why it was in their interest to abide by "our rules." By then, the Republicans had raised twice the amount of campaign money as the Democrats. The tobacco companies topped the big givers.

Project Relief morphed into the K Street Project. "We don't like to deal with people who are trying to kill the revolution," DeLay said. Law firms, trade associations and industries that hired Democrats were ostracized. "You need to hire a Republican," DeLay told these Washington outfits. And the business groups also had to kick in campaign money, lots of it. DeLay personally sent letters to PACs telling them exactly how much money they had to contribute and to which Republican candidates and committees. The K Street Project merged corporate interests with the Republican Party; served as an employment agency for activists and staffers, who were turned into lobbyists; and converted the lobbyists into writers of legislation, and the service sector of Washington into a bank for the party.

In November 1995, Gingrich demanded that President Clinton agree to massive cuts in Medicare and nearly equally massive regression tax cuts for the wealthy, and when Clinton refused, he shut down the federal government, for the first time in U.S. history. Medicare, he was quoted as saying, should "wither on the vine." Then, after reopening the government and conducting negotiations with Clinton, Gingrich forced another shutdown. "I don't care what the price is," he said. But the consequence was his discrediting. Most of the "Contract With America," the manifesto the Republicans ran on in 1994, was never enacted.

In 1996, the House Ethics Committee found that Gingrich had made false statements to it in the course of an investigation, fined him $300,000 and issued an official reprimand. It was the most severe penalty ever levied against a speaker. Gingrich's scandal involved crossing the wires of his intellectual vanity with his special interests. And it was related to the government shutdown he had insisted on.

Gingrich used tax deductions to finance political operations run through his political action committee, GOPAC, and think tank, the Progress and Freedom Foundation. One of these operations was a lecture series he taped, titled "Renewing American Civilization." Among GOPAC's biggest donors was J. Patrick Rooney, chairman of the Golden Rule Insurance Co. (Rooney's daughter served as GOPAC's deputy finance director.) Golden Rule sought the privatization of Medicare and its replacement by "medical savings accounts." In his "college course," Gingrich even included a promotional film for MSAs produced by Golden Rule.

In 1997, the other Republican leaders attempted a coup to replace Gingrich. DeLay gave his assent to the plot but lay in the background. But the putsch failed, and Gingrich demanded that its leader, rising young star Rep. Bill Paxon of New York, resign from the House. Days later, a bright young journalist, Sandy Hume, of the Hill newspaper, who had used Paxon as his source to disclose details of the coup, committed suicide. Hume, it was said, was despondent over having been arrested for drunken driving.

Gingrich, at low ebb, grasped onto the impeachment of President Clinton as his lifeline. He pressed it as the No. 1 issue in the 1998 midterm elections, but the Republicans lost five seats in the House. The public was simply opposed to an impeachment. Within two days, Gingrich resigned as speaker. The Republican leadership, especially DeLay, did not believe Gingrich was tough enough to push forward against Clinton. "I melt when I'm around him," Gingrich confessed to his second wife about Clinton. For more than a year Republicans sent a bodyguard, hardliner Richard Armey, to accompany Gingrich on all trips to the White House, fearing that Gingrich would compromise. Some of the Republicans also were privy to the information that Gingrich was personally vulnerable: His mistress was on the House payroll. And a few months after he quit as speaker, Gingrich told his second wife in a telephone call that he was leaving her.

Rep. Robert Livingston of Louisiana became acting speaker, but not for long. On the day of impeachment, Dec. 19, 1998, he resigned when pornographer Larry Flynt threatened to release sex tapes of his extramarital affairs. Livingston was a capable deal maker, but he was gone before he arrived.

The new speaker, Dennis Hastert, a former high school wrestling coach from Illinois, was DeLay's sock puppet. DeLay had coerced impeachment, threatening moderates with far-right primary opponents, and it left his power among House Republicans unimpaired. If anything, his ability to intimidate members was augmented.

Gov. George W. Bush of Texas positioned himself in his presidential campaign as a voice of reason and moderation, unblemished by the Republican Congress. He picked a strategic fight with DeLay over the earned-income tax credit for the working poor in order to assert his credentials as a "compassionate conservative." It was clear who was not compassionate.

Once Bush was elected, the Republican Congress, especially the House, became his essential prop of power. In the House, there is no actual legislative process. The workweek is typically only two days, like that of a small, minor state legislature. The Rules Committee forbids members from altering bills on the floor. Votes are blocked on bills that have bipartisan support, such as an extension of unemployment benefits that is opposed by a majority of the Republicans. Bills are crafted in the dead of night, behind closed doors, by a select group of Republican leaders, often without floor debate. The Boston Globe, in a 2004 series on the influence of lobbyists, reported that "on the Medicare and energy bills, businesses and other groups who reported lobbying on the two measures spent a staggering $799,091,391 in efforts to influence lawmakers, frequently employing former members of Congress, former staff members, and relatives of lawmakers to lobby on the bills." In addition, the Globe reported, the Republican Congress added "3,407 'pork barrel' projects to appropriations bills for this year's federal budget, items that were never debated or voted on beforehand by the House and Senate and whose congressional patrons are kept secret."

When it appeared that a Medicare bill would be defeated on the floor, Hastert kept debate open for three hours beyond its stipulated limit. DeLay twisted the arm of Rep. Nick Smith of Michigan, promising him $100,000 in campaign contributions for his son, who was running for Congress, if he would switch his vote. Smith changed from "yea" to "nay." Smith confessed to the allegation of bribery and then withdrew the confession. Nonetheless, the Ethics Committee, which DeLay has attempted to shut down, delivered a "public admonishment" to DeLay.

This month, DeLay resigned his post as majority leader under the strain of his criminal trial in Texas and the Abramoff revelations. In Texas, DeLay has been indicted for illegally siphoning corporate funds into state political campaigns. By using his political action committee, Texans for a Republican Majority, as a conduit, he financed races in the Texas Legislature; then the Legislature, at his prompting, redrew congressional districts, removing Democrats from their seats and padding the Republican majority in the House. Last month, the Washington Post disclosed that Justice Department lawyers had found that DeLay's scheme violated the Voting Rights Act, disenfranchising black and Hispanic voters, but Bush administration officials overruled them.

In the battle of succession to DeLay, DeLayism will triumph. The leading candidate for majority leader, Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, is so close to lobbyists that he left his wife to marry the lobbyist for Altria, the company that owns Philip Morris. In 2002, he inserted a provision into a homeland security bill to increase the penalties for selling stolen cigarettes. Blunt's son happens to be a lobbyist; his other son is the Republican governor of Missouri. He stands for nothing but business as usual. His challenger, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, runs a group called the K Street Cabinet. In 1995, on the floor of the House, Boehner handed out checks from tobacco lobbyists to Republican members, something he says he regrets.

The House Republicans this week relaunched themselves as champions of reform, presenting a program to clean up the stain left by Abramoff and DeLay. Their proposal, however, would not prevent members from accepting meals and travel from lobbyists so long as they were linked to campaign fundraising. But such a program cannot distract from the spectacle about to unfold.

The Abramoff affair is only at its start, and numerous members of the Congress and prominent Republican lobbyists and operatives may well and soon be ensnared. Behind closed doors, Abramoff and his partner Michael Scanlon, DeLay's former communications director, are singing.

Historians in the future will examine the implications and nuances of the Abramoff affair, the K Street Project and the trajectory of the Republican Congress from the dawn of its "revolution" to its Thermidorian dusk. For now, however, the matter is in the hands of the prosecutors.



"Congressman made personal loan to bank president shortly before bank extended him $250,00 plus loan"





The Bush people claim the "president" never met Abramoff except at 2 or 3 big events, but the GOP doth protest too much here.




The louder they scream, the more havoc they wreak and the more mud they sling, the more the Bush thugs try to cover up their dirty dealings and criminal acts.


The media is finally very slowly realizing that Gonzales's trashing of Gore is baseless. The MSM is getting as dumb, lazy and as dangerous as Bush.



The only language the Bush mafia type thugs understand is that delivered by a sledge hammer.




We are working so hard in Texas to get rid of the likes of DeLay and Kay Bailey Hutchison, the Bush rubber stamp girl extraordinaire. Help us out friends, help us out, por favor..... dig deep for the earth worms, then go fishing.



And it is not the lobbyist, it is the GOP that lured them.


Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Here is the full text of Al Gore's speech on Martin Luther King Day. When one reads the speech one is struck by the breadth of Gore's intellectual depth and integrity. What a tragedy that we are saddled with a bungling, dangerous and anti-American appointee who thrives on the abuse of power.

"America's Constitution is in grave danger"
Al Gore blasts Bush's spying on U.S. citizens: "A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government."

Jan. 17, 2006 | Congressman Barr and I have disagreed many times over the years, but we have joined together today with thousands of our fellow citizens -- Democrats and Republicans alike -- to express our shared concern that America's Constitution is in grave danger.

In spite of our differences over ideology and politics, we are in strong agreement that the American values we hold most dear have been placed at serious risk by the unprecedented claims of the Administration to a truly breathtaking expansion of executive power.

As we begin this new year, the Executive Branch of our government has been caught eavesdropping on huge numbers of American citizens and has brazenly declared that it has the unilateral right to continue without regard to the established law enacted by Congress to prevent such abuses.

It is imperative that respect for the rule of law be restored.

So, many of us have come here to Constitution Hall to sound an alarm and call upon our fellow citizens to put aside partisan differences and join with us in demanding that our Constitution be defended and preserved.

It is appropriate that we make this appeal on the day our nation has set aside to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who challenged America to breathe new life into our oldest values by extending its promise to all our people.

On this particular Martin Luther King Day, it is especially important to recall that for the last several years of his life, Dr. King was illegally wiretapped-one of hundreds of thousands of Americans whose private communications were intercepted by the U.S. government during this period.

The FBI privately called King the "most dangerous and effective negro leader in the country" and vowed to "take him off his pedestal." The government even attempted to destroy his marriage and blackmail him into committing suicide.

This campaign continued until Dr. King's murder. The discovery that the FBI conducted a long-running and extensive campaign of secret electronic surveillance designed to infiltrate the inner workings of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and to learn the most intimate details of Dr. King's life, helped to convince Congress to enact restrictions on wiretapping.

The result was the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA), which was enacted expressly to ensure that foreign intelligence surveillance would be presented to an impartial judge to verify that there is a sufficient cause for the surveillance. I voted for that law during my first term in Congress and for almost thirty years the system has proven a workable and valued means of according a level of protection for private citizens, while permitting foreign surveillance to continue.

Yet, just one month ago, Americans awoke to the shocking news that in spite of this long settled law, the Executive Branch has been secretly spying on large numbers of Americans for the last four years and eavesdropping on "large volumes of telephone calls, e-mail messages, and other Internet traffic inside the United States." The New York Times reported that the President decided to launch this massive eavesdropping program "without search warrants or any new laws that would permit such domestic intelligence collection."

During the period when this eavesdropping was still secret, the President went out of his way to reassure the American people on more than one occasion that, of course, judicial permission is required for any government spying on American citizens and that, of course, these constitutional safeguards were still in place.

But surprisingly, the President's soothing statements turned out to be false. Moreover, as soon as this massive domestic spying program was uncovered by the press, the President not only confirmed that the story was true, but also declared that he has no intention of bringing these wholesale invasions of privacy to an end.

At present, we still have much to learn about the NSA's domestic surveillance. What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the President of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and persistently.

A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government. Our Founding Fathers were adamant that they had established a government of laws and not men. Indeed, they recognized that the structure of government they had enshrined in our Constitution -- our system of checks and balances -- was designed with a central purpose of ensuring that it would govern through the rule of law. As John Adams said: "The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them, to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men."

An executive who arrogates to himself the power to ignore the legitimate legislative directives of the Congress or to act free of the check of the judiciary becomes the central threat that the Founders sought to nullify in the Constitution -- an all-powerful executive too reminiscent of the King from whom they had broken free. In the words of James Madison, "the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."

Thomas Paine, whose pamphlet, "On Common Sense" ignited the American Revolution, succinctly described America's alternative. Here, he said, we intended to make certain that "the law is king."

Vigilant adherence to the rule of law strengthens our democracy and strengthens America. It ensures that those who govern us operate within our constitutional structure, which means that our democratic institutions play their indispensable role in shaping policy and determining the direction of our nation. It means that the people of this nation ultimately determine its course and not executive officials operating in secret without constraint.

The rule of law makes us stronger by ensuring that decisions will be tested, studied, reviewed and examined through the processes of government that are designed to improve policy. And the knowledge that they will be reviewed prevents over-reaching and checks the accretion of power.

A commitment to openness, truthfulness and accountability also helps our country avoid many serious mistakes. Recently, for example, we learned from recently classified declassified documents that the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorized the tragic Vietnam war, was actually based on false information. We now know that the decision by Congress to authorize the Iraq War, 38 years later, was also based on false information. America would have been better off knowing the truth and avoiding both of these colossal mistakes in our history. Following the rule of law makes us safer, not more vulnerable.

The President and I agree on one thing. The threat from terrorism is all too real. There is simply no question that we continue to face new challenges in the wake of the attack on September 11th and that we must be ever-vigilant in protecting our citizens from harm.

Where we disagree is that we have to break the law or sacrifice our system of government to protect Americans from terrorism. In fact, doing so makes us weaker and more vulnerable.

Once violated, the rule of law is in danger. Unless stopped, lawlessness grows. The greater the power of the executive grows, the more difficult it becomes for the other branches to perform their constitutional roles. As the executive acts outside its constitutionally prescribed role and is able to control access to information that would expose its actions, it becomes increasingly difficult for the other branches to police it. Once that ability is lost, democracy itself is threatened and we become a government of men and not laws.

The President's men have minced words about America's laws. The Attorney General openly conceded that the "kind of surveillance" we now know they have been conducting requires a court order unless authorized by statute.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act self-evidently does not authorize what the NSA has been doing, and no one inside or outside the Administration claims that it does. Incredibly, the Administration claims instead that the surveillance was implicitly authorized when Congress voted to use force against those who attacked us on September 11th.

This argument just does not hold any water. Without getting into the legal intricacies, it faces a number of embarrassing facts. First, another admission by the Attorney General: He concedes that the Administration knew that the NSA project was prohibited by existing law and that they consulted with some members of Congress about changing the statute. Gonzalez says that they were told this probably would not be possible. So how can they now argue that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force somehow implicitly authorized it all along? Second, when the Authorization was being debated, the Administration did in fact seek to have language inserted in it that would have authorized them to use military force domestically -- and the Congress did not agree. Senator Ted Stevens and Representative Jim McGovern, among others, made statements during the Authorization debate clearly restating that that Authorization did not operate domestically.

When President Bush failed to convince Congress to give him all the power he wanted when they passed the AUMF, he secretly assumed that power anyway, as if congressional authorization was a useless bother. But as Justice Frankfurter once wrote: "To find authority so explicitly withheld is not merely to disregard in a particular instance the clear will of Congress. It is to disrespect the whole legislative process and the constitutional division of authority between President and Congress."

This is precisely the "disrespect" for the law that the Supreme Court struck down in the steel seizure case.

It is this same disrespect for America's Constitution which has now brought our republic to the brink of a dangerous breach in the fabric of the Constitution. And the disrespect embodied in these apparent mass violations of the law is part of a larger pattern of seeming indifference to the Constitution that is deeply troubling to millions of Americans in both political parties.

For example, the President has also declared that he has a heretofore unrecognized inherent power to seize and imprison any American citizen that he alone determines to be a threat to our nation, and that, notwithstanding his American citizenship, the person imprisoned has no right to talk with a lawyer -- even to argue that the President or his appointees have made a mistake and imprisoned the wrong person.

The President claims that he can imprison American citizens indefinitely for the rest of their lives without an arrest warrant, without notifying them about what charges have been filed against them, and without informing their families that they have been imprisoned.

At the same time, the Executive Branch has claimed a previously unrecognized authority to mistreat prisoners in its custody in ways that plainly constitute torture in a pattern that has now been documented in U.S. facilities located in several countries around the world.

Over 100 of these captives have reportedly died while being tortured by Executive Branch interrogators and many more have been broken and humiliated. In the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, investigators who documented the pattern of torture estimated that more than 90 percent of the victims were innocent of any charges.

This shameful exercise of power overturns a set of principles that our nation has observed since General Washington first enunciated them during our Revolutionary War and has been observed by every president since then
-- until now. These practices violate the Geneva Conventions and the International Convention Against Torture, not to mention our own laws against torture.

The President has also claimed that he has the authority to kidnap individuals in foreign countries and deliver them for imprisonment and interrogation on our behalf by autocratic regimes in nations that are infamous for the cruelty of their techniques for torture.

Some of our traditional allies have been shocked by these new practices on the part of our nation. The British Ambassador to Uzbekistan -- one of those nations with the worst reputations for torture in its prisons -- registered a complaint to his home office about the senselessness and cruelty of the new U.S. practice: "This material is useless -- we are selling our souls for dross. It is in fact positively harmful."

Can it be true that any president really has such powers under our Constitution? If the answer is "yes" then under the theory by which these acts are committed, are there any acts that can on their face be prohibited? If the President has the inherent authority to eavesdrop, imprison citizens on his own declaration, kidnap and torture, then what can't he do?

The Dean of Yale Law School, Harold Koh, said after analyzing the Executive Branch's claims of these previously unrecognized powers: "If the President has commander-in-chief power to commit torture, he has the power to commit genocide, to sanction slavery, to promote apartheid, to license summary execution."

The fact that our normal safeguards have thus far failed to contain this unprecedented expansion of executive power is deeply troubling. This failure is due in part to the fact that the Executive Branch has followed a determined strategy of obfuscating, delaying, withholding information, appearing to yield but then refusing to do so and dissembling in order to frustrate the efforts of the legislative and judicial branches to restore our constitutional balance.

For example, after appearing to support legislation sponsored by John McCain to stop the continuation of torture, the President declared in the act of signing the bill that he reserved the right not to comply with it.

Similarly, the Executive Branch claimed that it could unilaterally imprison American citizens without giving them access to review by any tribunal. The Supreme Court disagreed, but the President engaged in legal maneuvers designed to prevent the Court from providing meaningful content to the rights of its citizens.

A conservative jurist on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote that the Executive Branch's handling of one such case seemed to involve the sudden abandonment of principle "at substantial cost to the government's credibility before the courts."

As a result of its unprecedented claim of new unilateral power, the Executive Branch has now put our constitutional design at grave risk. The stakes for America's representative democracy are far higher than has been generally recognized.

These claims must be rejected and a healthy balance of power restored to our Republic. Otherwise, the fundamental nature of our democracy may well undergo a radical transformation.

For more than two centuries, America's freedoms have been preserved in part by our founders' wise decision to separate the aggregate power of our government into three co-equal branches, each of which serves to check and balance the power of the other two.

On more than a few occasions, the dynamic interaction among all three branches has resulted in collisions and temporary impasses that create what are invariably labeled "constitutional crises." These crises have often been dangerous and uncertain times for our Republic. But in each such case so far, we have found a resolution of the crisis by renewing our common agreement to live under the rule of law.

The principle alternative to democracy throughout history has been the consolidation of virtually all state power in the hands of a single strongman or small group who together exercise that power without the informed consent of the governed.

It was in revolt against just such a regime, after all, that America was founded. When Lincoln declared at the time of our greatest crisis that the ultimate question being decided in the Civil War was "whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure," he was not only saving our union but also was recognizing the fact that democracies are rare in history. And when they fail, as did Athens and the Roman Republic upon whose designs our founders drew heavily, what emerges in their place is another strongman regime.

There have of course been other periods of American history when the Executive Branch claimed new powers that were later seen as excessive and mistaken. Our second president, John Adams, passed the infamous Alien and Sedition Acts and sought to silence and imprison critics and political opponents.

When his successor, Thomas Jefferson, eliminated the abuses he said: "[The essential principles of our Government] form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation... [S]hould we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty and safety."

Our greatest President, Abraham Lincoln, suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War. Some of the worst abuses prior to those of the current administration were committed by President Wilson during and after WWI with the notorious Red Scare and Palmer Raids. The internment of Japanese Americans during WWII marked a low point for the respect of individual rights at the hands of the executive. And, during the Vietnam War, the notorious COINTELPRO program was part and parcel of the abuses experienced by Dr. King and thousands of others.

But in each of these cases, when the conflict and turmoil subsided, the country recovered its equilibrium and absorbed the lessons learned in a recurring cycle of excess and regret.

There are reasons for concern this time around that conditions may be changing and that the cycle may not repeat itself. For one thing, we have for decades been witnessing the slow and steady accumulation of presidential power. In a global environment of nuclear weapons and cold war tensions, Congress and the American people accepted ever enlarging spheres of presidential initiative to conduct intelligence and counterintelligence activities and to allocate our military forces on the global stage. When military force has been used as an instrument of foreign policy or in response to humanitarian demands, it has almost always been as the result of presidential initiative and leadership. As Justice Frankfurter wrote in the Steel Seizure Case, "The accretion of dangerous power does not come in a day. It does come, however slowly, from the generative force of unchecked disregard of the restrictions that fence in even the most disinterested assertion of authority."

A second reason to believe we may be experiencing something new is that we are told by the Administration that the war footing upon which he has tried to place the country is going to "last for the rest of our lives." So we are told that the conditions of national threat that have been used by other Presidents to justify arrogations of power will persist in near perpetuity.

Third, we need to be aware of the advances in eavesdropping and surveillance technologies with their capacity to sweep up and analyze enormous quantities of information and to mine it for intelligence. This adds significant vulnerability to the privacy and freedom of enormous numbers of innocent people at the same time as the potential power of those technologies. These techologies have the potential for shifting the balance of power between the apparatus of the state and the freedom of the individual in ways both subtle and profound.

Don't misunderstand me: the threat of additional terror strikes is all too real and their concerted efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction does create a real imperative to exercise the powers of the Executive Branch with swiftness and agility. Moreover, there is in fact an inherent power that is conferred by the Constitution to the President to take unilateral action to protect the nation from a sudden and immediate threat, but it is simply not possible to precisely define in legalistic terms exactly when that power is appropriate and when it is not.

But the existence of that inherent power cannot be used to justify a gross and excessive power grab lasting for years that produces a serious imbalance in the relationship between the executive and the other two branches of government.

There is a final reason to worry that we may be experiencing something more than just another cycle of overreach and regret. This Administration has come to power in the thrall of a legal theory that aims to convince us that this excessive concentration of presidential authority is exactly what our Constitution intended.

This legal theory, which its proponents call the theory of the unitary executive but which is more accurately described as the unilateral executive, threatens to expand the president's powers until the contours of the constitution that the Framers actually gave us become obliterated beyond all recognition. Under this theory, the President's authority when acting as Commander-in-Chief or when making foreign policy cannot be reviewed by the judiciary or checked by Congress. President Bush has pushed the implications of this idea to its maximum by continually stressing his role as Commander-in-Chief, invoking it has frequently as he can, conflating it with his other roles, domestic and foreign. When added to the idea that we have entered a perpetual state of war, the implications of this theory stretch quite literally as far into the future as we can imagine.

This effort to rework America's carefully balanced constitutional design into a lopsided structure dominated by an all powerful Executive Branch with a subservient Congress and judiciary is-ironically-accompanied by an effort by the same administration to rework America's foreign policy from one that is based primarily on U.S. moral authority into one that is based on a misguided and self-defeating effort to establish dominance in the world.

The common denominator seems to be based on an instinct to intimidate and control.

This same pattern has characterized the effort to silence dissenting views within the Executive Branch, to censor information that may be inconsistent with its stated ideological goals, and to demand conformity from all Executive Branch employees.

For example, CIA analysts who strongly disagreed with the White House assertion that Osama bin Laden was linked to Saddam Hussein found themselves under pressure at work and became fearful of losing promotions and salary increases.

Ironically, that is exactly what happened to FBI officials in the 1960s who disagreed with J. Edgar Hoover's view that Dr. King was closely connected to Communists. The head of the FBI's domestic intelligence division said that his effort to tell the truth about King's innocence of the charge resulted in he and his colleagues becoming isolated and pressured. "It was evident that we had to change our ways or we would all be out on the street.... The men and I discussed how to get out of trouble. To be in trouble with Mr. Hoover was a serious matter. These men were trying to buy homes, mortgages on homes, children in school. They lived in fear of getting transferred, losing money on their homes, as they usually did. ...
so they wanted another memorandum written to get us out of the trouble that we were in."

The Constitution's framers understood this dilemma as well, as Alexander Hamilton put it, "a power over a man's support is a power over his will."
(Federalist No. 73.)

Soon, there was no more difference of opinion within the FBI. The false accusation became the unanimous view. In exactly the same way, George Tenet's CIA eventually joined in endorsing a manifestly false view that there was a linkage between al Qaeda and the government of Iraq.

In the words of George Orwell: "We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right.
Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite
time: The only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield."

Whenever power is unchecked and unaccountable it almost inevitably leads to mistakes and abuses. In the absence of rigorous accountability, incompetence flourishes. Dishonesty is encouraged and rewarded.

Last week, for example, Vice President Cheney attempted to defend the Administration's eavesdropping on American citizens by saying that if it had conducted this program prior to 9/11, they would have found out the names of some of the hijackers.

Tragically, he apparently still doesn't know that the Administration did in fact have the names of at least 2 of the hijackers well before 9/11 and had available to them information that could have easily led to the identification of most of the other hijackers. And yet, because of incompetence in the handling of this information, it was never used to protect the American people.

It is often the case that an Executive Branch beguiled by the pursuit of unchecked power responds to its own mistakes by reflexively proposing that it be given still more power. Often, the request itself it used to mask accountability for mistakes in the use of power it already has.

Moreover, if the pattern of practice begun by this Administration is not challenged, it may well become a permanent part of the American system.
Many conservatives have pointed out that granting unchecked power to this President means that the next President will have unchecked power as well.
And the next President may be someone whose values and belief you do not trust. And this is why Republicans as well as Democrats should be concerned with what this President has done. If this President's attempt to dramatically expand executive power goes unquestioned, our constitutional design of checks and balances will be lost. And the next President or some future President will be able, in the name of national security, to restrict our liberties in a way the framers never would have thought possible.

The same instinct to expand its power and to establish dominance characterizes the relationship between this Administration and the courts and the Congress.

In a properly functioning system, the Judicial Branch would serve as the constitutional umpire to ensure that the branches of government observed their proper spheres of authority, observed civil liberties and adhered to the rule of law. Unfortunately, the unilateral executive has tried hard to thwart the ability of the judiciary to call balls and strikes by keeping controversies out of its hands -- notably those challenging its ability to detain individuals without legal process -- by appointing judges who will be deferential to its exercise of power and by its support of assaults on the independence of the third branch.

The President's decision to ignore FISA was a direct assault on the power of the judges who sit on that court. Congress established the FISA court precisely to be a check on executive power to wiretap. Yet, to ensure that the court could not function as a check on executive power, the President simply did not take matters to it and did not let the court know that it was being bypassed.

The President's judicial appointments are clearly designed to ensure that the courts will not serve as an effective check on executive power. As we have all learned, Judge Alito is a longtime supporter of a powerful executive -- a supporter of the so-called unitary executive, which is more properly called the unilateral executive. Whether you support his confirmation or not -- and I do not -- we must all agree that he will not vote as an effective check on the expansion of executive power. Likewise, Chief Justice Roberts has made plain his deference to the expansion of executive power through his support of judicial deference to executive agency rulemaking.

And the Administration has supported the assault on judicial independence that has been conducted largely in Congress. That assault includes a threat by the Republican majority in the Senate to permanently change the rules to eliminate the right of the minority to engage in extended debate of the President's judicial nominees. The assault has extended to legislative efforts to curtail the jurisdiction of courts in matters ranging from habeas corpus to the pledge of allegiance. In short, the Administration has demonstrated its contempt for the judicial role and sought to evade judicial review of its actions at every turn.

But the most serious damage has been done to the legislative branch. The sharp decline of congressional power and autonomy in recent years has been almost as shocking as the efforts by the Executive Branch to attain a massive expansion of its power.

I was elected to Congress in 1976 and served eight years in the house, 8 years in the Senate and presided over the Senate for 8 years as Vice President. As a young man, I saw the Congress first hand as the son of a Senator. My father was elected to Congress in 1938, 10 years before I was born, and left the Senate in 1971.

The Congress we have today is unrecognizable compared to the one in which my father served. There are many distinguished Senators and Congressmen serving today. I am honored that some of them are here in this hall. But the legislative branch of government under its current leadership now operates as if it is entirely subservient to the Executive Branch.

Moreover, too many Members of the House and Senate now feel compelled to spend a majority of their time not in thoughtful debate of the issues, but raising money to purchase 30 second TV commercials.

There have now been two or three generations of congressmen who don't really know what an oversight hearing is. In the 70's and 80's, the oversight hearings in which my colleagues and I participated held the feet of the Executive Branch to the fire -- no matter which party was in power.
Yet oversight is almost unknown in the Congress today.

The role of authorization committees has declined into insignificance. The
13 annual appropriation bills are hardly ever actually passed anymore.
Everything is lumped into a single giant measure that is not even available for Members of Congress to read before they vote on it.

Members of the minority party are now routinely excluded from conference committees, and amendments are routinely not allowed during floor consideration of legislation.

In the United States Senate, which used to pride itself on being the "greatest deliberative body in the world," meaningful debate is now a rarity. Even on the eve of the fateful vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq, Senator Robert Byrd famously asked: "Why is this chamber empty?"

In the House of Representatives, the number who face a genuinely competitive election contest every two years is typically less than a dozen out of 435.

And too many incumbents have come to believe that the key to continued access to the money for re-election is to stay on the good side of those who have the money to give; and, in the case of the majority party, the whole process is largely controlled by the incumbent president and his political organization.

So the willingness of Congress to challenge the Administration is further limited when the same party controls both Congress and the Executive Branch.

The Executive Branch, time and again, has co-opted Congress' role, and often Congress has been a willing accomplice in the surrender of its own power.

Look for example at the Congressional role in "overseeing" this massive four year eavesdropping campaign that on its face seemed so clearly to violate the Bill of Rights. The President says he informed Congress, but what he really means is that he talked with the chairman and ranking member of the House and Senate intelligence committees and the top leaders of the House and Senate. This small group, in turn, claimed that they were not given the full facts, though at least one of the intelligence committee leaders handwrote a letter of concern to Vice President Cheney and placed a copy in his own safe.

Though I sympathize with the awkward position in which these men and women were placed, I cannot disagree with the Liberty Coalition when it says that Democrats as well as Republicans in the Congress must share the blame for not taking action to protest and seek to prevent what they consider a grossly unconstitutional program.

Moreover, in the Congress as a whole -- both House and Senate -- the enhanced role of money in the re-election process, coupled with the sharply diminished role for reasoned deliberation and debate, has produced an atmosphere conducive to pervasive institutionalized corruption.

The Abramoff scandal is but the tip of a giant iceberg that threatens the integrity of the entire legislative branch of government.

It is the pitiful state of our legislative branch which primarily explains the failure of our vaunted checks and balances to prevent the dangerous overreach by our Executive Branch which now threatens a radical transformation of the American system.

I call upon Democratic and Republican members of Congress today to uphold your oath of office and defend the Constitution. Stop going along to get along. Start acting like the independent and co-equal branch of government you're supposed to be.

But there is yet another Constitutional player whose pulse must be taken and whose role must be examined in order to understand the dangerous imbalance that has emerged with the efforts by the Executive Branch to dominate our constitutional system.

We the people are -- collectively -- still the key to the survival of America's democracy. We -- as Lincoln put it, "[e]ven we here" -- must examine our own role as citizens in allowing and not preventing the shocking decay and degradation of our democracy.

Thomas Jefferson said: "An informed citizenry is the only true repository of the public will."

The revolutionary departure on which the idea of America was based was the audacious belief that people can govern themselves and responsibly exercise the ultimate authority in self-government. This insight proceeded inevitably from the bedrock principle articulated by the Enlightenment philosopher John Locke: "All just power is derived from the consent of the governed."

The intricate and carefully balanced constitutional system that is now in such danger was created with the full and widespread participation of the population as a whole. The Federalist Papers were, back in the day, widely read newspaper essays, and they represented only one of twenty-four series of essays that crowded the vibrant marketplace of ideas in which farmers and shopkeepers recapitulated the debates that played out so fruitfully in Philadelphia.

Indeed, when the Convention had done its best, it was the people -- in their various States -- that refused to confirm the result until, at their insistence, the Bill of Rights was made integral to the document sent forward for ratification.

And it is "We the people" who must now find once again the ability we once had to play an integral role in saving our Constitution.

And here there is cause for both concern and great hope. The age of printed pamphlets and political essays has long since been replaced by television
-- a distracting and absorbing medium which sees determined to entertain and sell more than it informs and educates.

Lincoln's memorable call during the Civil War is applicable in a new way to our dilemma today: "We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country."

Forty years have passed since the majority of Americans adopted television as their principal source of information. Its dominance has become so extensive that virtually all significant political communication now takes place within the confines of flickering 30-second television advertisements.

And the political economy supported by these short but expensive television ads is as different from the vibrant politics of America's first century as those politics were different from the feudalism which thrived on the ignorance of the masses of people in the Dark Ages.

The constricted role of ideas in the American political system today has encouraged efforts by the Executive Branch to control the flow of information as a means of controlling the outcome of important decisions that still lie in the hands of the people.

The Administration vigorously asserts its power to maintain the secrecy of its operations. After all, the other branches can't check an abuse of power if they don't know it is happening.

For example, when the Administration was attempting to persuade Congress to enact the Medicare prescription drug benefit, many in the House and Senate raised concerns about the cost and design of the program. But, rather than engaging in open debate on the basis of factual data, the Administration withheld facts and prevented the Congress from hearing testimony that it sought from the principal administration expert who had compiled information showing in advance of the vote that indeed the true cost estimates were far higher than the numbers given to Congress by the President.

Deprived of that information, and believing the false numbers given to it instead, the Congress approved the program. Tragically, the entire initiative is now collapsing -- all over the country -- with the Administration making an appeal just this weekend to major insurance companies to volunteer to bail it out.

To take another example, scientific warnings about the catastrophic consequences of unchecked global warming were censored by a political appointee in the White House who had no scientific training. And today one of the leading scientific experts on global warming in NASA has been ordered not to talk to members of the press and to keep a careful log of everyone he meets with so that the Executive Branch can monitor and control his discussions of global warming.

One of the other ways the Administration has tried to control the flow of information is by consistently resorting to the language and politics of fear in order to short-circuit the debate and drive its agenda forward without regard to the evidence or the public interest. As President Eisenhower said, "Any who act as if freedom's defenses are to be found in suppression and suspicion and fear confess a doctrine that is alien to America."

Fear drives out reason. Fear suppresses the politics of discourse and opens the door to the politics of destruction. Justice Brandeis once wrote: "Men feared witches and burnt women."

The founders of our country faced dire threats. If they failed in their endeavors, they would have been hung as traitors. The very existence of our country was at risk.

Yet, in the teeth of those dangers, they insisted on establishing the Bill of Rights.

Is our Congress today in more danger than were their predecessors when the British army was marching on the Capitol? Is the world more dangerous than when we faced an ideological enemy with tens of thousands of missiles poised to be launched against us and annihilate our country at a moment's notice? Is America in more danger now than when we faced worldwide fascism on the march -- when our fathers fought and won two World Wars simultaneously?

It is simply an insult to those who came before us and sacrificed so much on our behalf to imply that we have more to be fearful of than they. Yet they faithfully protected our freedoms and now it is up to us to do the same.

We have a duty as Americans to defend our citizens' right not only to life but also to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is therefore vital in our current circumstances that immediate steps be taken to safeguard our Constitution against the present danger posed by the intrusive overreaching on the part of the Executive Branch and the President's apparent belief that he need not live under the rule of law.

I endorse the words of Bob Barr, when he said, "The President has dared the American people to do something about it. For the sake of the Constitution, I hope they will."

A special counsel should immediately be appointed by the Attorney General to remedy the obvious conflict of interest that prevents him from investigating what many believe are serious violations of law by the President. We have had a fresh demonstration of how an independent investigation by a special counsel with integrity can rebuild confidence in our system of justice. Patrick Fitzgerald has, by all accounts, shown neither fear nor favor in pursuing allegations that the Executive Branch has violated other laws.

Republican as well as Democratic members of Congress should support the bipartisan call of the Liberty Coalition for the appointment of a special counsel to pursue the criminal issues raised by warrantless wiretapping of Americans by the President.

Second, new whistleblower protections should immediately be established for members of the Executive Branch who report evidence of wrongdoing -- especially where it involves the abuse of Executive Branch authority in the sensitive areas of national security.

Third, both Houses of Congress should hold comprehensive -- and not just superficial -- hearings into these serious allegations of criminal behavior on the part of the President. And, they should follow the evidence wherever it leads.

Fourth, the extensive new powers requested by the Executive Branch in its proposal to extend and enlarge the Patriot Act should, under no circumstances be granted, unless and until there are adequate and enforceable safeguards to protect the Constitution and the rights of the American people against the kinds of abuses that have so recently been revealed.

Fifth, any telecommunications company that has provided the government with access to private information concerning the communications of Americans without a proper warrant should immediately cease and desist their complicity in this apparently illegal invasion of the privacy of American citizens.

Freedom of communication is an essential prerequisite for the restoration of the health of our democracy.

It is particularly important that the freedom of the Internet be protected against either the encroachment of government or the efforts at control by large media conglomerates. The future of our democracy depends on it.

I mentioned that along with cause for concern, there is reason for hope. As I stand here today, I am filled with optimism that America is on the eve of a golden age in which the vitality of our democracy will be re-established and will flourish more vibrantly than ever. Indeed I can feel it in this hall.

As Dr. King once said, "Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us."